HTC HD2 Review: If Only It Was Running WP7

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There’s only so much I can say about a Windows Mobile device without wanting to gnaw my own foot off. The software is horrendous and the only people I ever encounter that have one are Microsoft employees or the PR folk who represent them. But the HTC HD2 for T-Mobile is different enough – screen size aside – that it warrants a smidgen of attention.

I’ll start with the obvious – the screen. At 4.3 inches, I can say that I’ve never seen a more brilliant display on a cell phone before, which happens to be augmented or, better yet, improved upon with the inclusion of Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen for free. T-Mobile even added the Roxio-powered Blockbuster video download service app. It’s a nice add-on but the playback software happens to be Windows Media Player and the UI is nothing short of a train wreck. Except when you play the aforementioned robot movies that come preloaded. Don’t bother navigating away from the movie unless you feel like watching it again from the beginning.

Because of its large display, the HD2 is much, much larger than your standard iPhone or BlackBerry. But it’s thin enough and is relatively lightweight enough that I don’t mind toting it around. I’m almost positive that even those who don skinny hipster jeans can cram this into their pockets.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, HTC makes some amazing hardware. It’s a shame that this epic piece of metal and glass is hindered (or marred) by the Windows Mobile OS. You wouldn’t know it was running Windows Mobile, but there’s only so much that HTC’s Sense UI can hide. The simple act of turning Wi-Fi on requires you to dive into the menu system. Even with Sense UI and Qualcomm’s 1GHz Snapdragon processor, the HD2 chugs along, stalls and even soils itself every so often.

The cameras used by HTC vary by model (the Incredible, for example, is of the 8-megapixel variety) but the 5-megapixel on the HD2 performs admirably. A slew of settings are available at your disposal but the UI isn’t the easiest thing to figure out. Like the iPhone 3GS, the HD2 is capable of touch focus, so you can tap on anything within the frame to focus on. Picture quality is fairly sharp and works relatively well in low light situations, but it works best under direct sunlight. Same goes for video. Oh, and the dual LED flash does a bang up job brightening things up.

Call quality on both ends have been fine but signal strength can be hit or miss. My T-Mobile BlackBerry Bold 9700 shows five full bars (or -80dBm) while the HD2 bounces between three and four.

Despite the large screen, the HD2 managed to get through till happy hour before needing some juice. You could probably get through till bedtime on a full charge, but these things are meant to be used, right? Mileage will vary.

Browsing the web can be mildly frustrating if you’re using IE, but Opera comes preloaded and offers a much better experience. For starters, multitouch is enabled and IE struggles to render sites in a timely manner.

Despite the fact that Windows Phone 7 launches later this year, the HD2 is without a doubt the best Windows Mobile phone available on the market in the US. It has its flaws, sure, but anyone willing to shell out $200 has already conceded to Windows Mobile’s inadequacies long ago.

T-Mobile HD2